Tranquilizers, also known as sedatives or anxiolytics, are medications frequently prescribed in addiction treatment to help manage withdrawal symptoms or anxiety related to substance abuse. These drugs, including benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax and non-benzodiazepines like Ambien and Lunesta, function by calming the central nervous system. They achieve this by enhancing the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a calming neurotransmitter in the brain, thus reducing anxiety, promoting relaxation, and aiding sleep. These drugs, primarily found in the form of capsules and tablets, were developed to replace barbiturates and methaqualone in medical treatments. Currently, 33 benzodiazepines are listed under controlled substances, available in forms like tablets, capsules, vials, and powders for injection.
Used for a long time in medical and psychiatric settings, tranquilizers offer relief from anxiety, panic attacks, chronic insomnia, or muscle spasms. However, in the context of addiction treatment, their use is tightly controlled. This is due to the risk of dependency and abuse associated with these medications, particularly if misused or taken in higher doses than prescribed. Long-term or unsupervised use can lead to physical and psychological dependence, necessitating professional help to discontinue safely.
Understanding the Risks
Prescription sedatives and tranquilizers, while effective in treating certain conditions, carry significant risks, especially when misused. These drugs, designed to slow brain function, can lead to a range of side effects including slurred speech, shallow breathing, sluggishness, fatigue, disorientation, lack of coordination, and dilated pupils. At higher doses, they can impair memory, judgment, and coordination, and may cause irritability, paranoia, suicidal thoughts, agitation, and aggression. Particularly dangerous is their use with other substances like alcohol, which can severely slow breathing and heart rate, potentially leading to death.
Prolonged use of these medications can result in physical dependence. Abrupt discontinuation or reduction in dosage can trigger withdrawal symptoms and a rebound effect, which can be severe, including seizures and other serious health risks. Users often develop a tolerance, necessitating larger doses to achieve the same effects as initially experienced, increasing the risk of overdose. Additionally, these drugs can be addictive; individuals might continue using them despite their harmful impacts on health and well-being.
In the context of illicit drug use, benzodiazepines such as diazepam (commonly known as ‘Valium’), temazepam (‘jellies’), and flunitrazepam (‘Rohypnol’) are misused as drug substitutes, additives in drug preparations, or in combination with alcohol. Particularly, Rohypnol has gained notoriety as a ‘date rape drug’ due to its incapacitating effects. The illegal market for benzodiazepines typically involves drugs diverted from legitimate sources, with no significant evidence of clandestine manufacturing.
In a treatment plan, tranquilizers are used under close medical supervision, often for short periods. Healthcare providers monitor patients’ progress and adjust dosages as needed. Patients are advised to strictly follow the prescribed guidelines and report any side effects. Since abrupt discontinuation can cause withdrawal symptoms or a rebound of anxiety, tapering off these drugs should be carefully managed.
Tranquilizers are part of a broader treatment strategy in addiction recovery. While they help in managing immediate withdrawal symptoms and stabilizing patients in early recovery, they are typically used alongside therapies, counselling, and lifestyle changes for holistic care. The treatment team ensures a personalised approach to each patient’s care, considering their specific needs.
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Founded in 2008, WeDoRecover has evolved from an advisory service for addiction treatment into a comprehensive provider of care, following its 2019 merger with Changes Addiction Rehab in Johannesburg. Specializing in connecting patients to top-tier addiction treatment centers in the UK, South Africa, and Thailand, WeDoRecover supports individuals globally, including those from the United Arab Emirates and Europe. Accepting both South African medical aid and international health insurance, the organization facilitates access to high-quality treatment for substance and alcohol use disorders, offering individualized care that addresses the physical, mental, and social needs of patients.
Our team, led by Gareth Carter, offers empathetic and professional support, guiding you through every step of the treatment process. Whether you're in South Africa or abroad, our acceptance of various insurance plans makes quality care accessible, providing a platform for lasting recovery and a healthier future.
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